Melissa Pheterson reports on health, wellness and lifestyle content for Gannett, iVillage.com and other media. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Jerusalem Post, Salon.com, JewishStoryWriting.com and in the anthology Have I Got a Guy For You. You can enjoy her collected stories of crazy Jewish family life, Under His Nose, on your Kindle or Kindle app.
Tonight I’m planning dinner by candlelight. It will engage all five senses, with attention lavished on the tiniest details, including our wedding china instead of Corelle, and soup that requires…a trip to the butcher instead of just a can opener. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac, but I’m banking on the kneidelach my husband likes: the firmer, the better. Ah, February 14th. Isn’t this how Shabbat should always go? My kids’ preschool director sent an email out reminding parents that “we celebrate love and… >> Read More
In the old video we just had restored to DVD, my grandmother wears bright red lipstick and a sparkly blue sweater as she undresses my mother for her bath. Her hair is perfectly coiffed. She smiles…and bats her eyes. The year is 1951. Impressed, I told Grandma that I’m usually in mismatched PJs and a shower cap when bath time rolls around, screaming downstairs for my husband to fetch me the last clean towel. “I think I’m doing something wrong,” I admitted. “Oh, honey,” said Grandma. “I’m sure I dressed… >> Read More
What’s the worst that could happen?
It’s my mother’s favorite hypothetical, though she means it literally. And while the answers remain unspoken, the preemptive nervous energy…abounds. I’d remained oblivious to her anxiety in my coddled childhood, and dodged it after college when I lived alone in midtown Manhattan, accepting drinks from strangers and letting potential serial killers escort me home. But as soon as I got married to a nice Jewish boy, priming my womb for babies, Mom began finding… >> Read More
As a writer, I love words, but I’m pretty indifferent to the letters in the alphabet. When I’m typing, I don’t even glance at the keyboard. And of course, my children and my writing rarely mix,…except when I send an otherwise polished email that abruptly ends in a flourish of ghnjopiarp!, the result of rogue little hands. So the feat of “writing with children” took on meaning last month, when my preschoolers and I visited a sofer, or Torah scribe, at our synagogue in Rochester. The Torah, dating from the… >> Read More
In the hallways of my kids’ Jewish camp I’ve seen “Crab Shack” tees and even shirts that say, “Hail Bacon!”
With smugness, I told the preschool director I’d never dream of sending my…kids wearing “those kinds” of tees to anyplace attached to a synagogue. We also spoke of the more eyebrow-raising baby clothes we’ve seen recently (“Free Gas Around the Corner,” “Bros Before O’s,” “I Only Cry When Ugly People Hold Me”). Which was worse: cute little crab or outright hostility? “Ideally,” said Randi, “when it comes… >> Read More
"Partying all night" now means the yearly ritual where my husband, my son, and I open his birthday gifts after the last cranky guest has left for the evening. (This year, my night-owl daughter may…well join us.) Hey, it's the closest thing we Jewish families have to Christmas. Amid fallen streamers and crumpled napkins, we paw at tissue paper to discover sets of Legos, puzzles that beep mysteriously, rickety railroad sets. With delight, Josh and Sam extract the toys, even ones we already have (in their view, there's no… >> Read More
We present this piece about that tricky mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship just in time for Mother(-in-law)'s Day.
My mom and I are so close that we can finish each other's sentences, or at…least harmonize in what my husband calls the Parade of Horribles ("Hope this milk's not expired/Hope it's not too cold for shorts/Oy, oy, oy"). But this Mother's Day, I need to make a special effort to knock down the walls that have risen between "MIL" Dearest and me. I got to know Bobbi pretty quickly… >> Read More
I admire those who can evolve on their own, shedding old bad habits through sheer mindfulness and mental discipline. For me, it takes acute laryngitis.
"You'll become a good listener real fast," a…friend joked. So true! Here's what else happened when I lost my voice: 1. I got firm, fast. It only took an hour of apologetically croaking, "Mommy can't talk!" until I realized I'd never recover at that rate. But of all times I needed to speak up, why did it have to be when I… >> Read More
Weeks before I met my husband, I went to Israel on a Birthright trip and pranced down twisting streets belting out Hebrew songs, swept up in the fervor of the group. I shared my feelings in drum…circles and slipped a note into the Western Wall expressing the hope that I'd find love that year. When my wish came true, the trip was so fresh in my mind that I could recount to Josh in detail the spectacle we'd made of ourselves, dancing through the desert in some proto-flash mob. When he… >> Read More